Sunday, March 20, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the rally

The loss of power on Amtrak's entire Northeast Corridor yesterday was emblematic of why we should get out of the war business and redirect a major chunk of our defense budget toward rebuilding our country's infrastructure.

Wanting to attend Resist the War Machine, the second veteran-led rally against the war (the first was held on December 16...narratives, photos, and videos...) I asked some friends to come along.  I offered to drive to New Carrollton or one of the other outlying metro points.  From there we would be able to take the metro to Lafayette Park, across from the White House.  When my friends couldn't make it, I decided to take the train to D.C., rather than drive the 2 1/2hr alone both ways.  All was going normally until we passed the Baltimore station. The train entered the tunnel between Baltimore and BWI (Baltimore-Washington International Airport) and suddenly the power shut down.  Emergency lights came on and the train came to a gradual halt. Several announcements: "We've lost power, will let you know when we have further information... Still waiting for word of the power outage." Then finally, "Ladies and gentlemen, there has been a power outage along Amtrak's entire Northeast Corridor.  We are awaiting the arrival of a diesel train to tow us back to Baltimore Station where you can make alternate arrangements for getting to your destination.  We are very sorry for this incovenience."

A diesel train to tow us backwards.  Symbolic that.

Getting off the train, I met Sharon, an activist member of World Can't Wait. We pieced together "alternate arrangements" which included two local trains and a final, exorbitantly expensive taxi ride which we split. Fortunately, we got to Lafayette Park in time to hear Chris Hedges speak. After a silent march around the block ending at the White House, many of the participants performed civil disobedience and were arrested.

This was not the first time power outages have occurred along Amtrak's Northeast corridor.  For instance, there was August 24 of last year and more recently, March 11 of this year.

Fat chance our budget-cutting Congress will divert funds from our bloated defense budget toward repairing  Amtrak's infrastructure. Already I've read commentaries blaming the Amtrak workers and the union. Sure. Blaming the unionized workers is really in vogue these days.  Those people want too much.  Like job security and a middle-class standard of living. Let the trains go to rot. See the USA in your Chevrolet. That's the American way.

And what about those who can't afford a car or who are unable to drive for one reason or another, like the blind persons I encountered traveling on the Baltimore light rail? Face it.  It's every man and woman for him or herself in this country. That's the American way.

Besides, do we really want the poor, the blind, and members of the underclass to be able to descend upon our nation's capital to voice their dissatisfaction with this government's policies? That's a question I'll be meditating on while looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. And following news of our country's third war.